Gliese 581 c, an Earthlike planet spotted outside our solar system is the first found that could support liquid water and harbor life, scientists recently announced.On the first panorama off the surface of the planet, which has 5 times the weight of the earth, we can clearly see forms of vegetation. The sky, colored by the system's red dwarf 'sun' Gliese 581, shows evidence of a faint atmosphere.
"- Come over, Alice. Let´s sit down at this table, here. It´s free and we´ll be able to see the band playing."
"- Fine. I´ll get us some drinks first, I´ll be right there. Hang on a minute, Eric..."
"-Zwei Kölsch, bitte! Okay, here we go."
"-Thank you, Alice. Ahhh, that´s better. Well, it was high time that we meet again. I missed you, darling!"
"-Ha-ha! You liar!! How can you say you missed me when your entire head is stuffed with Gliese 581 c and all that?!"
"- Did you miss me too?"
"- Gliese --- that sounds like a lubrificant to me --- Gliese, glycerine, gliding... ha-ha, try the best astronomical lubricant of the universe, it´s discrete, odourless and easy to handle, it´s..."
"- Jesus, how childish you are, Alice! Wilhelm Gliese was the German astronomer who developed the catalogue that includes and categorises the red dwar star Gliese 581 and the extra solar planets orbiting it. So, he´s your compatriot, didn´t you know? Besides, what kind of weird and destructive mood are you in?"
" - Excuse me, I beg your pardon! Tu as raison: I´m silly. In a destructive mood... yeah. It´s the fucking date, you know, April 26th. I hate this date! It´s my Frech grandma´s death date. It´s the dispersal date of my ex-lover and me. It´s the date of the amok run in Erfurt/Germany. It´s Chernobyl day... it´s a fucked-up date! But.... I´m glad I can spend it with you, Eric!"
"- Fine. Are you ready then, for Planet Podge?"
"- Yes, I am. Tell me about it."
"Planet Podge, also known as Gliese 581 c aka Earth II. Discovered two days ago by the team of Stephen Urdy of the Geneva Observators in Switzerland, with a HARPS instrument, a 3.6-m ESO telescope. What they found is the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System discovered to date, an exoplanet with a radius only 50% larger than the Earth and capable of having liquid water. At least that´s what they calculated, based on the assumption that it is a rocky planet, rather than an icy planet, in which case gravity on its surface is approximately 2.2 times stronger than on Earth. And its mass is estimated to be about five times that of the Earth. It is 14 times closer to its host star, the red dwarf Gliese 851 than the Earth is from the Sun, about 11 million km from it, while the Earth is 150 million km from the Sun. Therefore, it completes a full orbit in 13 days. So a year is only 13 days long! However, given that Gliese 581 is smaller and colder than the Sun - and thus less luminous - the planet nevertheless lies in the habitable zone, the region around a star where water could be liquid."
- “Wow, that implicates a time-accelerator. If one year is completed in 13 days, 5 years would be completed in less than 70 days, 10 years in 130 days, well that would suit me, sometimes…”
- “Why that? Do you long for growing older?”
“- No, I just long for time to pass, sometimes, or simply for a change… but I suppose that is a naïve fallacy…”
- “That’s what you say, my dear.”
- “Anyway, these are such wondrous, most wonderful news!! I always believed that there were several *possible worlds*, or should I say “possible Earths”? Saying that we are the only ones is so snobbish and superficial! How could we even dare…?? Even my 3-year-old son is convinced that there may be other planets like ours out there, and thus without any educational background. Yesterday, he said: “Maman, I’m gonna be an astronaut when I’m grown up. You said that behind the skies and the universe, they say there are other skies and universes, and so on, and then infinity. So that when I’ll be ten years old, I’ll construct faster machines and robots so that we can go and look for more worlds out there! So that we can learn what is infinity. Mommy, what is *infinity*???”
“- What did you reply?”
“- I said “I don’t know”. I said “I’m afraid of flying so high” I asked “What do YOU think infinity is?" "
"- What did he reply to that?”
“- He told me “Oh Maman, if you’re afraid of flying, you´ll have to stay down on Earth, sorry. I’ll wave you. " And he said “I think infinity is *nothing*.” "
- Ha-ha, he might be right. There might be no such thing as infinity, or infinity might be equal to nothing or nothingness. Or have you ever met any form of infinity in daily life or relationships?
“- No, I haven´t. But tell me, do you think there could be life on Earth II?”
“-Well, I have no idea. There could be life, because the scientists project an average surface temperature of 0-40°C (32-104°F). So Gliese 581 c is within the habitable zone where liquid water, commonly understood as a necessary ingredient for life, could exist. But…”
“- But… what??”
“- But although the potential liquid is predicted by the habitable zone model, no direct conclusive evidence has been found to date. There are techniques existing that can potentially be applied to determine the existence of water vapour in an extra solar planet’s atmosphere, but this method requires the rare coincidence of a planet whose orbit causes it to transit directly in front of its sun, something Gliese 581 c is not known to do.”
“- So what are we waiting for? Let’s be daring, why go there to check it?!"
- Well indeed - why not? Gliese 581 is among the 100 closest stars to us, located only 20.5 light-years away from our home, in the constellation Libra (“the Scales). –That’s ~ 200 billions km away from here. Moreover, the red dwarf Gliese 581 is the host of a 3-planet system, the two other ones are called Gliese 581 a and Gliese 581 b. One of them is some kind of a hot Neptune, made only of gas, the other one has higher mass than Earth II and is closer to the red dwarf. There might be another exoplanet orbiting Gliese 581, but it hasn’t been detected for sure yet. So our number c is thus the know exoplanet which moist resembles our own Earth. But unfortunately, apart from its relative distance to us, there might be another problem.
“- Some obstacle preventing life forms?”
“- We don’t know yet. But our newly discovered Super-Earth planet may be tidally locked to its parent star, with one hemisphere always lit and the other always dark. In that case the lit hemisphere might be extremely hot and the dark hemisphere extremely cold, while the small terminator or “twilight zone” between them might have a moderate climate more suitable for life as we know it.”
- “Ahhh, the twilight zone…!!! Can you imagine? Let’s accelerate time and imagination, let´s move a hundred years ahead: mankind has almost totally destroyed our planet, Earth I and has found a way to cross those 20.5 light years by space shuttle in a reasonable amount of time, in order to visit and populate Gliese 581 c. Let’s suppose that only 1/10 of the human population were allowed to go and settle down there on Earth II, because of the tidiness of that habitable “twilight zone”. What would happen then? Who would be allowed to go there? Who would choose them, and according to which criteria? What kind of world could those chosen ones, those pioneers, construct over there? What about those left behind? What kind of reality would they mould here, then? Would that cause a civil war, like in those apocalyptic science-fiction B-movies? These are cliché questions, I know, but clichés have a true core, I learned that from someone who used to be very close to me, that´s what he told me every time I tried to break a cliché in our knotted relationship - and he was right, in the end.. of our relationship. And that still hurts.
“- Forget about it. Forget about him. What do you think?”
“- Ha-ha… I truly don’t know. I have flashes of Stanley Kubrick´s “2001 – A Space Odyssey”. You know those scenes with the man-apes on that other planet? I suppose Kubrick was right, he felt something that was coming ahead, although I never completely understood that movie.”
“- Hmm, he was a crazy visionary, at least that’s the mainstream perception of him. What else do you think, Alice?”
“- Well, I suppose, the whole question breaks down to a simple “Would we do it all over again?” Before we tempt to visit Earth II, maybe we should focus on that question…?”
“- I think most people wouldn’t change a thing, neither in their personal life, nor with regards to society or whatsoever. They well be complaining about how miserable their daily life is, their wives and husbands get on their nerves, their jobs are boring and their bosses unfair, life, politics and society are generally speaking poor and unjust... but I suspect that if they had the chance for a new start, a chance to do it all over again but differently, most of them wouldn’t change a damn thing! They would trudge along exactly the same narrow paths of living and thinking. I’m convinced they would!!
“- Eric, you are such a snob! I know some people who wouldn’t. People change! People learn from experience! They grow!! Some never do, I agree, but some do! You would take the chance to change a few things in your life and in this world, wouldn’t you? I’m convinced you would!”
“- That’s charming of you, my love, but I’m not so sure about that. I’m over fifty, ha-ha, what do you expect from me? But now, please tell me… who’s that guy playing over there, he sounds great?”
“- His name is Micky Moody. A blessed, outstanding British guitar player. Formerly “Whitesnake”. The master of slide guitar. Oh, and he was born in 1950, by the way. Same age-group than you, Eric.”
" - He´sfantastic. Alice... I like it when you smile that way. So how are you feeling now, on this April 26th evening? Better?"
"- Yes, better. But still a little sad inside. When will this background sadness stop, Eric?"
"- Well, I don´t know. That´s up to you to decide, I suppose. In any possible world."
On this round birthday of yours I pause for a while To open the gateway to my heart for you, And offer you unconditional greetings from the distance Hoping you´ll come by and catch them.
Life has put some remoteness between us, I know. The landscape has slipped, as you said. Let us respect that. Nevertheless I think of you today Hoping you are fine and keeping well.
Formerly caught in the drift of unhappy love turns My sailing boat was totally muddled and helpless-- I suppose that yours got bashed up as well then. For stranded lovers, silence seems much easier than friendship.
It is ourselves we hurt most. Will we forgive and forget each other? I have forgiven, but I surely won´t forget you. Whilst the seasons changed and ten thousand passer-bys glanced at me I still look back at you, every once in a while.
I take that liberty, I take that chance. Independent minds always run wild and free!
Please notice that despite that somewhat reassorted shell, Patched up with daily joys, with truth, transmission and creation, Deep down inside myself I tightly hold on to the special one You dared to be for me: a precious soul-mate, way beyond all barriers.
So on this particular day, when hopefully you´re on centre stage I´m disobeying ordinary rules and commonly common sense By writing down these simple lines for you, my dear, Hoping you´ll understand and value them, today or on another day.
What else is there to say for me, on this quite different Friday 13th, When everything is to be said and done by old fellows and dearly beloved? Is there some hidden space inside you that is left for me to fill? If so, please do accept my wishes and my call.
Let me reach you at the break of twilight, birthday boy! For a moment (not for long), allow me to care and praise you.
For I wish you that you will always cherish the sparkle of genius That shines through when your hands hit your steel guitar, Transcending all borders between you and others, time and space, A gift that has been granted to you: a gift to look after, something rare.
I also wish you plenty of future playgrounds and playmates For those brilliant games of the mind that you master so well, “Mental tennis” you called this, in full humour, Well believe me, I remember that about you, I can tell!
Another thing I wish you is that you´ll always allow yourself the luxury Of dreaming and living your craziest visions on earth (whatever they may be!) For I´m almost sure you have not lost your wanderlust yet… Yes, one day you may jump off the edge of the world in safety, and fly free.
And finally, I wish you to keep trust in your own strength and talents, And confidence in the beautiful force of fate, love and life. Whenever you may be in doubt about yourself, my dear, Recall yourself the way I completely fell in love for two, twice in a trice.
So on this round birthday of yours I have paused for a while To open the gateway to my heart for you, And have offered you unconditional greetings from the distance Hoping you will come by and catch them.
Farewell, my Angel Child, farewell! Go spread your wings and let it all go by.
When you surprised me with your recent growth I couldn´t talk to you, for fear of losing you too soon, Before we´d ever meet each other, face-to-face And now your little heartbeat ceased, and I feel so alone.
By accident, some say, by acts of God, those others preach, They speculate aloud why you´ve already taken leave of life, But me, I´m shaping tender words for you, silently in the dark, Like “I will miss you, little Angel”, and “It would have been so nice.”
Small ageless sparkle, you came mixing up my world Just to remind me what it´s really all about. You made me see the structure of my soul again, That soul that had been deeply rotting in the lost and found.
I try to cup my body around what seems to remain of you, I´m turning all my loving feeling inwards, but it is too late. So all that´s left for me to do is quietly say goodbye now, Angel Child And let you leave and rest in peace to join the universal fate.
Farewell, my Angel Child, farewell. Go spread your wings and let it all go by.